Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) is a non-profit, human-rights organization that advocates for human rights and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Guyana. A vacancy exists at SASOD for the services of an Administrative Assistant. The Administrative Assistant will provide general support SASOD in the implementation of activities related to the achievements of SASOD goals and objectives.

The Administrative Assistant will provide the following services:
Clerical and general office services including filing documents and other materials;
Taking minutes at meetings;
Supporting procurement functions of the Finance Assistant and other contractors;
Assisting the Advocacy and Communications Officer in media monitoring and other duties;
Organising meetings and other events;
Providing logistical support to events, meetings, workshops and conferences.
Participating in the planning of activities and events;
Sharing information and promoting activities utilizing social media and other forms of ICT;
Delivering and uplifting correspondences and packages as needed;
Any other administrative duties assigned accordingly.
Qualifications and Experience:
Minimum of 5 subjects CXC including English and Mathematics.
Relevant tertiary education or training.
Experience in a similar post.
Additional Requirements
The contractor must have or cover his/her own means of transportation to provide the required services. The monthly contract fee is inclusive of transportation allowance.

Interested candidates should request full terms of reference by e-mailing

Applications accompanied by a statement of 150 words on LGBT rights, must be submitted by May 27, 2013 via email only to:
Programme Coordinator, Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD).

Email and copy to

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

GUYANA: International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO)

GUYANA: International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO)
By Alana Da Silva

The Guyana Equality Forum and its partners gathered together on May 18, 2013 at 3:00pm to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) by painting a section of the seawall between Vlissengen Road and Pere Street. The GEF is a local network of civil society groups who support equal rights and justice for all Guyanese. The coalition is chaired by Red Thread, while SASOD serves as its administrative secretariat. 

IDAHO is celebrated annually on May 17 by millions of people around the world and marks the 1990 anniversary in which the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. For the Guyana Equality Forum, this year’s event was titled “Painting a Brighter Future” under the theme, “The Children are our Future” to raise awareness of the issues children face in Guyana, such as violence, abuse, and discrimination based on sexuality and gender. IDAHO was also utilized to keep a local spotlight on the Select Committee of the National Assembly that is currently holding consultations on the abolition of corporal punishment in schools and the need to create a safe and enabling environment for children, regardless of race, religion, social status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. IDAHO was therefore acknowledged by highlighting the immense work of Guyanese groups advocating to advance human rights protections of all citizens, especially our vulnerable children.

The painting activity was supported by scores of members, supporters of SASOD, Red Thread, and other civil society groups including, Youths for Guyana, students from the University of Guyana and their recently-formed Human Rights Group. As Renuka Anandjit (Programme Coordinator at SASOD) said in a brief remark, “We are all here because we believe in the protection of human rights.”

The event was experienced with laughter and cheer as the group lined up to paint the IDAHO symbol in black and pink; silhouettes of children holding hands under a rainbow; and plastered colorful handprints on the white concrete wall.

In keeping with the theme of this event, SASOD believes that in order for us as a nation to move forward and protect vulnerable children, marginalized groups, and all Guyanese from the dangers and inequalities that seek to rob us from a brighter future, we must remain committed to eliminating all forms violence and discrimination meted out to all Guyanese – including discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

Guyana’s record on children’s rights was reviewed under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in January 2013. Red Thread, Artistes In Direct Support (A.I.D.S.), Family Awareness Conscious Together (FACT) and SASOD partnered and presented a submission on sexuality and gender issues affecting children in Guyana to the CRC Committee. The Committee’s recommendations included that Guyana:

• Take all appropriate measures to explicitly prohibit corporal punishment in all settings, particularly in the domestic and school contexts:

• Strengthen and expand awareness-raising and education programmes and campaigns, in order to promote positive and alternative forms of discipline and respect for children’s rights, with the involvement of children, while raising awareness about the adverse consequences of corporal punishment on children:

• Address harmful cultural practices involving child abuse and exploitation;

• Establish procedures and guidelines to ensure mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse and exploitation cases pursuant to the Sexual Offences Act 2010;

• Prioritize the elimination of all forms of violence against children; and

• Address the prevalence of discrimination against Amerindian children, and children with disabilities and on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

SASOD and the Guyana Equality Forum believe that part of their work is to ensure that days such as IDAHO are commemorated as a reminder that the path to achieving human rights for all is a continuous struggle, but one that can pave the way for a brighter future for all Guyanese.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Joint Press Release from the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD)
and the Faculty of  Law University of the West Indies Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP)
High Court Hearing on Guyana’s Cross-dressing Law Adjourned to June 4

On Friday 10th May, 2013, Guyana’s Chief Justice Ian Chang heard arguments in a constitutional challenge to Guyana’s nineteenth century cross-dressing law. The applicants are Quincy McEwan, Seon Clarke, Joseph Fraser, Seyon Persaud and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD). The Faculty of Law University of the West Indies Rights Advocacy Project (U-RAP) is coordinating litigation in this case. The matter raises key questions about how the random application of outdated laws can increase the vulnerability of poor and powerless people to others’ prejudices. U-RAP argued that the law is unconstitutional because it violates fundamental rights to equality and non-discrimination.
The case of McEwan, Clarke, Fraser, Persaud and SASOD v. Attorney General was initiated four years ago following the February 2009 conviction and fine of seven individuals for violating section 153 (1) (xlvii) of the Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act. The 1893 law makes it a criminal offence for men to wear female attire and for women to wear male attire “in any public way or public place, for any improper purpose.” Other activities criminalised in section 153(1) are: grooming an animal in a public place; placing goods in a public way in town; beating a mat in a public way; flying a kite in the city; loitering around a shop and hauling timber in a public way.
U-RAP co-founder, and public law lecturer at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Dr. Arif Bulkan explained that this colonial law was part of repressive penal regimes instituted in the second half of the nineteenth century throughout the Caribbean to severely constrain the lives and actions of recent freed Africans and the newly arrived indentured servants. Bulkan notes that “despite the discriminatory aspects of these colonial laws, and their low regard for the majority colonial populations, vagrancy laws like section 153(1) have been kept in effect long after independence.” He adds that “the law is plainly at odds with the ethos and provisions of the Guyana Constitution which states that it is committed to 'eliminating every form of discrimination.'”
Seon Clarke, litigant in the case questioned on Friday, “How can we still have these laws today? They are used to harass a particular set of Guyanese and it is not right. All the lawyers in court today, were in gowns that looked very much like dresses, shouldn’t they be charged too?”
Seyon Persaud, litigant in the case, added that the general attitude of the community is still very discriminatory and violent. This makes it extremely difficult to access employment, health care and to simply live. “I am Guyanese too and deserve to do all these rights like everybody else,” said Persaud.
The applicants argued that the law violates many provisions of the amended Guyana Constitution, particularly the rights to equality and non-discrimination in Articles 149 and 149D. As a general rule, any aspect of a law that is at odds with the Constitution is invalid.
Dr. Alissa Trotz, Associate Professor, Women and Gender Studies, and Caribbean Studies, at the
University of Toronto, and of Guyana’s Red Thread, pointed out that it was especially important to recognize and applaud the conviction of the four applicants as well as SASOD, for keeping a necessary spotlight on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. “They make me so proud to be Caribbean,” she said. Further, it highlights how laws can be selectively applied to uphold not justice but a status quo that protects and works for the few, and where those without the so-called respectability of money and power can be regularly and readily targeted for persecution, Dr. Trotz contended.
The hearing comes at an opportune time for Guyana. This year the nation has several chances to engage in a rational discourse surrounding key human rights issues. As part of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process, a Special Select Committee of Parliament is considering arguments from a spectrum of stakeholders on law reform related to three issues - corporal punishment in schools, the death penalty and discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons. Additionally, on-going nationwide community consultations will increase public engagement and education which are critical to changing perceptions.
SASOD’s Secretary of the Board of Trustees, Zenita Nicholson, explained that the constitutional challenge is part of this wider network of opportunities to examine the way people interact with one another, whether state agencies uphold the rights and dignity of all citizens, and the extent to which laws undermine equality.
Another hearing is scheduled for June 4th 2013 in the High Court, Chief Justice’s chambers.
SASOD is a Guyana-based human rights advocacy organisation which is committed to promoting equal rights for all people, with a focus on eliminating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
U-RAP’s objective it is to promote human rights and social justice in the Caribbean by undertaking and participating in human rights litigation in collaboration with human rights lawyers and organisations. The team of lawyers involved in the current case includes Gino Persaud and Nigel Hughes. Attorney-at-law and U-RAP co-founder, Dr. Arif Bulkan, presented arguments on behalf of the applicants on Friday.

U-RAP co-founder Dr. Arif Bulkan speaking at a meeting with Transgender Guyanese on Friday.

U-RAP founder Tracy Robinson debriefing transgender Guyanese after Friday's court hearing.